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ICU healthcare workers reflect on one year anniversary of first Houston-area COVID-19 case

"We’re getting tired, but I’m also getting tired of calling families where their loved ones are sick, in the ICU, or they died," a COVID-19 ICU doctor said.

HOUSTON — March 4, 2020 was the day the threat of COVID-19 became a reality in the Houston area.

Fort Bend County confirmed the first local case. It was a man in his 70s who had traveled abroad.

Now there are more than 355,000 cases in Harris County alone.

For healthcare workers on the front line, the last year has been a rollercoaster.

“It seems like a marathon that’s neverending. Every day you’re showing up to work. You’re working, working, working,” said Stephanice Stephen, a registered nurse and clinical manager at Memorial Hermann Hospital.

Dr. Luis Chug is a pulmonologist at Memorial Hermann Hospital. Stephen and Chug spoke to KHOU 11 and reflected on the last year and their experience working in COVID-19 intensive case units.

“We learned that extremes, like closing everything put a lot of stress on businesses and life in general. But also the extreme of not wearing masks or social distancing, that doesn’t work, either,” Dr. Chug said.

Since the start of the pandemic, hospitals in the Texas Medical Center were stretched to surge capacity twice. Dr. Chug is worried history will repeat itself if everyone takes off their masks too soon.

“We want everything to be open. I want to go with my family to travel. I want to go to dinner outside. We’re getting tired, but I’m also getting tired of calling families where their loved ones are sick, in the ICU, or they died," Dr. Chug said.

Despite long hours and extra shifts, Stephen said her family and the hope the COVID-19 vaccine brings are what keep her going.

“We’re happy to do what we do. We just want to the community to join in with us so we don’t have to do it as much as we’re doing it,” Stephen said.

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